Pac-12 Game of the Week: Oregon at Colorado

Posted by AMurawa on February 4th, 2012

Oregon at Colorado, February 4, 7 PM PST, ROOT-NW/ROOT-RM

After both the Ducks and the Buffaloes took care of business on Thursday night, they sit tied with California a game back of Washington in the Pac-12. And provided the Ducks can get to Boulder from Salt Lake City (their original flight on Friday morning was cancelled due to weather), we should be in for a good fight for Saturday evening. While Colorado has yet to lose a Pac-12 game in their Coors Event Center (aka, the Foam Dome), the Ducks have been the best road team in the conference thus far, winning four of their five tests away from Eugene. However, the combination of the travel problems that Oregon is experiencing and the 5300-foot elevation in Boulder combine to give Dana Altman and his crew a unique challenge. CU head coach Tad Boyle hasn’t shied away from giving some credit to the elevation for his team’s success at home, but whether it is physical or psychological, there is no doubt that a significant advantage exists for at home. The Buffaloes have won their six conference games at home by an average of 28 points, compared with a 1-3 record away from home and the three losses coming by an average of almost 15 points. At home, the Buffs have scored 1.12 points per possession and held conference opponents to a stingy 0.85 points per possession; those numbers get flipped on the road to just 0.93 points per offensive possession while allowing a more reasonable 1.01 points per defensive possession.

Coors Event Center, Colorado

The Combination Of Some Rough Travel And The Coors Event Center Could Spell Road Trouble For Oregon

Altman’s crew, however, has been excellent on the road so far this season, handing losses to both Arizona schools, as well as Washington State and Utah. Altman credits his team’s maturity for their play away from home (the team is the 15th most experienced team in Division I, according to Ken Pomeroy) and Boyle sees their mental toughness as their biggest road asset as well. Another significant strength for the Ducks is their ability to not only get to the free throw line on a regular basis offensively, but also to prevent their opponents from getting to the line. The Ducks are in the top 50 nationally in FTA-to-FGA ratio, setting up an interesting conflict, as the Buffaloes rank 20th nationally in their offensive FTA-to-FGA ratio; in short, the Buffs want to attack the opposition and get to the line on a regular basis, while the Ducks want to play solid defense without fouling. Whichever team is most successful in getting to the line may earn an advantage in an otherwise remarkably even matchup.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 27th, 2012

  1. Sometimes, life just ain’t fair. After earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors last week after averaging 28.5 points per game last week, Washington State senior guard Faisal Aden left the Cougars game with Arizona late in the first half Thursday night with a knee injury. While we are by no means doctors here, it is quite possible that Aden has played his final game in a Washington State uniform. Washington State beat writer Christian Caple reports that it is a sprained MCL, but we will get more details later. After what appeared to be a complete makeover in his game the last several games, the prospect that Aden does not get a chance to work towards proving his growth as a player and proving his critics wrong is, in a word, depressing. Who knows? Maybe the injury isn’t as bad as it seemed, and he’ll be back sooner rather than later. We can hope. As for the rest of the game, the Wildcats hit 15-of-27 three-point attempts, shot a 63.6 eFG%, held WSU to 38.5 eFG%, forced 16 Cougar turnovers and committed just nine. In short, a confidence-building performance heading into Saturday’s tough match-up with Washington.
  2. Herb Sendek got excellent effort out of his undermanned Arizona State team Thursday night, but they still struggled to score with consistency, scoring just one point in the first six minutes of the second half as Washington turned a two-point halftime deficit into an 11-point lead. Arizona State got back within four late in the game, but Washington held on for a six-point win. Tony Wroten had a great game for the Huskies, scoring 22 points on 12 field goal attempts (including a serious throw-down late in the game), grabbing six rebounds, handing out four assists, swiping a couple steals, and only turning the ball over twice, in what may have been his second-best all-around game in a U-Dub uniform. Freshman Jonathan Gilling did his best to keep the Sun Devils around, scoring a career-high 20 points and hitting five threes (three in the second half), but it was not to be.
  3. UCLA took apart Utah is a game only a mother could love (and really, that mother would be up for a mother-of-the-year award for pretending to love this thing). After a sluggish Bruin first half (in which they still out-scored the Utes by 15), they really turned it on early in the second half, building their lead up as high as 37 behind balanced scoring. Seven Bruins scored eight points or more, UCLA shot a 68.5 eFG% and held Utah to just 42.4 eFG%. Beyond that, yuck.
  4. At least the game across town was interesting in a train-wreck type of way. USC’s nightmare season continued as they got absolutely owned by Colorado, who earned their first-ever Pac-12 road win in dominating fashion. It’s hard to take a lot out of a win over these Trojans this year, but winning at USC may be a good first step towards further road success for the Buffaloes the rest of the way. Thursday night, they were mighty impressive, holding USC to 36.4 eFG% and killing the Trojans on the boards. Colorado grabbed 92.9% of defensive rebound opportunities and 43.5% on the offensive end. Five Buffs scored in double figures, and five grabbed more than five boards while the trio of Colorado players making a return to their Southern California home (Carlon Brown, Askia Booker, and Spencer Dinwiddie) combined for 34 points and 27 rebounds. Even worse for the Trojans, sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon left early in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. USC has already lost three players for the season to injury.
  5. Lastly, ESPN’s Jay Bilas weighed in on the weakness of the Pac-12, blaming not only the early defections of some conference players to the NBA, but also the number of new coaches up and down the conference. Certainly Arizona has had to deal with the transition from the Lute Olson era to the Sean Miller era, while USC’s struggles in the wake of the Tim Floyd era helped bolster the Wildcats a bit. Then there’s Oregon’s struggles keeping players around the start of the Dana Altman era, and the loss of Tony Bennett from Washington State was a crushing blow, but that explanation does nothing to excuse the problems at UCLA, Washington, or Arizona State.
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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Missing A Transfer?

Posted by AMurawa on January 26th, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

“Which recent Pac-12 transfer would do the most to help his former team this year?”

 

Andrew Murawa: Where to begin? There have been so many transfers around the conference in recent years that seemingly every team has been hit hard by one loss or another. Utah has had multiple players transfer out, leaving head coach Larry Krystkowiak with a nearly empty cupboard when he arrived – they could certainly make use of the offensive punch of either current Colorado senior Carlon Brown (although he would have used up his eligibility by now without the transfer) or Marshall Henderson, who will begin his sophomore season at Texas Tech next year. Bryce Jones would give the ridiculously shorthanded USC squad some firepower, but he is currently sitting out his transfer season at UNLV. Arizona State is currently struggling with its backcourt depth, and Demetrius Walker, currently struggling to earn playing time at New Mexico, would certainly be ready to provide minutes for Herb Sendek’s team. And that’s just a partial list.

Mike Moser, UNLV

Mike Moser's Athleticism And Perimeter Abilities Would Greatly Help The Current UCLA Team (photo credit: John Gurzinski, AP Photo)

But really, let’s not get too fancy here. The Pac-12 transfer who would do the most to help his former team is Mike Moser, the best player on the list. Moser left UCLA in April 2010 in search of playing time that Ben Howland either could not or would not find for him. After sitting out last season, he’s become a force at UNLV this year, averaging 14 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, while contributing an athleticism and even a three-point shooting presence that is sorely missing at UCLA. While Moser couldn’t earn consistent minutes as a freshman in 2009-10 on a team that started guys like James Keefe and Nikola Dragovic up front, he would be far and away the most athletic frontcourt player on the squad, and together with freshman guard Norman Powell, one of just two above-average Pac-12 athletes on the team. His ability to rebound has been well documented (he grabs 28.1% of defensive rebounds, good for ninth in the nation, and his 12.9% offensive rebounding rate is somewhat restricted by his tendency to play on the perimeter offensively) but he would also provide some punch outside (he hits slightly more than one three per game at a 32.4% rate). Throw in the fact that he would be the one player on the squad who could effectively match up defensively with athletic threes, freeing up the Wear twins to play primarily at the four and five, and he would be a major boon to a struggling UCLA defense. Moser is a prime example of why it is important for coaches to expand their rotations a bit and at least find a bit of time for youngsters, keeping those guys involved, finding out what they can do and providing them the promise of a chance to contribute to the program in more substantial ways in the future.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.23.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2012

  1. We’re through four weeks of conference play in the Pac-12, and the situation atop the heap is now as clear as mud. We have four teams with a couple of losses and another two with three losses. Oregon is one of our leaders at 6-2 after posting a home sweep over the Los Angeles schools, and the Ducks have stolen three road games while winning all but one at home. On Saturday, they bounced back from a sluggish first half to outscore UCLA by 20 points in the second half behind a career-high 26 points from junior E.J. Singler. But it was Garrett Sim and Tony Woods that turned the momentum around for Dana Altman’s squad, as Sim notched a personal 7-0 run on just two possessions (a four-point play mixed in there) early in the second half, while Woods blocked two shots and slammed back an offensive rebound on the way to the Ducks erasing a 13-point halftime lead right out of the locker room. Oregon gets to stay at home next weekend for a matchup with rival Oregon State.
  2. California is the other leader atop the conference, but Golden Bear fans probably have to feel like they missed an opportunity this weekend. After pulling out an impressive road win at Washington on Thursday, they spit the bit Saturday, losing by two at Washington State. For the Cougars, Faisal Aden was incredible this weekend. We and others have been critical of Aden’s offensive efficiency this year, but this weekend was spectacular, hitting 19 of his 29 field goal attempts and 19 of his 20 free throw attempts on his way to a total of 57 points over the course of two games. Not surprisingly, his Cougs won both of those, and their fans are excited. Not only was Aden very efficient, but he seems to have taken on a new personality. Instead of bombing away this weekend, he attacked the hoop, got to the line and limited his three-point attempts (three three-pointers attempted on the weekend – all on Thursday night). If he can keep up his new offensive personality, the Cougars just got a whole lot tougher.
  3. Washington now sits at 5-2 after it bounced back from its loss on Thursday with a 13-point win over Stanford fueled by a 20-3 second half run. The win was Lorenzo Romar’s 300th in his career and 100th conference win at Washington. While the usual suspects led the way for the Huskies (Tony Wroten had 21 and Terrence Ross had 18), Darnell Gant bounced back from a terrible night on Thursday with 17 points and seven rebounds against the Cardinal. And, the newest Husky, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the starting tight end on the Husky football team who joined the basketball team a couple weeks back, earned his first playing time, getting 16 minutes and grabbing seven rebounds.
  4. Colorado swept through the weekend series with the Arizona schools and is tied with Washington at 5-2. The Buffaloes earned a one-point win over the Wildcats despite sophomore forward Andre Roberson pulling a disappearing act (zero points, 0/8 from the field), as senior Carlon Brown sank a three to give Colarado the lead after Arizona had taken their first lead since the 15 minute mark in the second half on a Kevin Parrom jumper. However, the Buffs still had to withstand a last-second three-point attempt by Parrom to hang on for the win. The last possession was a curious one for the Wildcats, as they gained possession of the ball following a missed Brown three-point attempt with 30 seconds left and Arizona down one. Sean Miller didn’t have a timeout to call in order to set up a final play, and the Wildcats were nonchalant on offense, only able to put up one shot after 30 seconds and leaving no time for the team to score on the offensive rebound that Josiah Turner came up with as time expired. In other words, Arizona needs to spend some time on their late-game situations in practice this week.
  5. Lastly, time to go slumming at the bottom of the conference, as any time Utah comes up with a win, it has to deserve a mention. This weekend it was the Utes winning the battle of the undermanned, handing Arizona State a 21-point loss on Saturday. Freshman Kareem Storey, playing his second game as Larry Krystkowiak’s point guard following the dismissal of Josh Watkins, had a very solid game, scoring 12 points, handing out six assists and turning it over just once in 36 minutes, while senior Cedric Martin drilled five threes to lead all scorers with 17 points. Arizona State, playing without injured guard Trent Lockett, couldn’t get anything going offensively, shooting just 42.1 eFG% and just three-of-15 from deep.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.17.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2012

  1. Arizona State came out of Saturday’s action with a big win over Oregon State, but along the way they took a loss as well, as junior guard Trent Lockett sprained his ankle with ten minutes left and did not return. Lockett, who had taken over as the team’s point guard in the wake of the dismissal of Keala King, is currently questionable for ASU’s games next week. But Herb Sendek hopes that Chris Colvin, who handed out five assists in the ten minutes that Lockett missed on Saturday, can use his performance against OSU as a springboard to better things. Colvin began the season as the team’s point guard in the wake of Jahii Carson’s eligibility issues, but struggled early and often, eventually losing his starting spot, getting suspended on two different occasions and being relegated to a minor role in the three conference games he has played in.
  2. Elsewhere in the infirmary, California’s junior point guard Brandon Smith has missed the Bears’ last three games after suffering a concussion against Oregon State on January 5, but could be due for a return soon. Head coach Mike Montgomery said that Smith will returns once he can pass his concussion battery tests, and currently his reaction times are not quite up to snuff. Justin Cobbs, in particular, has been excellent in Smith’s absence, handing out a career-high 11 assists in the Bears’ win over Utah on Saturday.
  3. The Pac-12 handed out its Player of the Week award on Monday morning, and Terrence Ross of Washington was this week’s recipient. We here at RTC opted for Josh Huestis of Stanford, but Ross’ 30-point outburst Sunday night in helping the Huskies come back from a second-half deficit against Washington State was certainly deserving. Ross became the third Husky to win the award this season; he was preceded in the honor by teammates C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten.
  4. At this time last week, Colorado was the talk of the conference, having jumped out to a 3-0 start in conference play. But, this week the Buffaloes set out on the road for the first time and were treated rather rudely in the Bay Area, losing both their contests. Head coach Tad Boyle said that he was pleased with CU’s effort in a seven-point loss at California, but that Saturday’s 20-point defeat to Stanford was something of a step back. Senior guard Carlon Brown noted that the Buffs let the road environment get them out of their game, but teammate Austin Dufault thinks the Buffs will improve on the road as the season progresses.
  5. Lastly, in the wake of USC’s 0-5 conference start and, most recently, a 19-point home loss to cross-town rival UCLA, some Trojans fans are beginning to talk about needing a new coach. But athletic director Pat Haden promises that he’ll show patience with head coach Kevin O’Neill, blaming some of SC current troubles on the mess that Tim Floyd left this program in. But even Haden admits that there is some frustration with the team’s complete inability to produce any type of offense. Nevertheless, for those Trojan fans hoping for a new basketball coach: Don’t expect any changes any time soon.
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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • This past weekend likely saw the best regular season game of the Pac-12 schedule, as Stanford battled Oregon State for four exciting overtimes before finally securing an all-important road victory.
  • Given the relative homogeneity of the conference, the recipe for winning the regular season title is going to be: 1) take care of business at home; and 2) steal a handful of road games against the middle and bottom of the Pac. On both of those fronts, Stanford is looking good now, sitting with California, Washington, and Arizona atop the conference. What’s that you say? Colorado actually leads the conference with a 3-0 record? Sorry Buffs, but get back to me once you have tasted the road in the Pac-12. Right now all three of their wins have come at home.
Chasson Randle, Stanford

Stanford's Four Overtime Win Over Oregon State Helped Keep Them Among The Contenders In The Pac-12 (Rick Bowmer/AP)

  • Elsewhere this past weekend, Thursday night was upset central as all six underdogs came away with victories that night, before things got back to normal, as only Stanford was able to spring the upset. UCLA got back to .500 in conference after sweeping the Arizona schools, making the Bruins and Buffs the only homestanders to win both of their games last weekend.
  • And, lastly, the Pac-12 lost another promising player to immaturity this week, as Keala King was dismissed by Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek after being left back from the Sun Devils’ trip to the Los Angeles-area schools week along with Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin. In Sendek’s press conference on Tuesday, he referred to King being unhappy with being forced to play point guard in the absence of ineligible freshman Jahii Carson and butting heads with Sendek over his role. As a result, King joins the growing list of Pac-12 players who have divorced their programs this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Colorado at California

Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012

Colorado at California, January 12, 8:oo PM, Comcast Sports Network – California

The Buffaloes are alone in first place in the Pac-12, after opening conference play with three consecutive home wins, but they’re yet to really earn any believers. They’ve certainly got a chance to fill up their bandwagon this weekend, as they make this year’s toughest road trip in the conference when they head to California Thursday night and Stanford on Saturday afternoon. By the end of the weekend, we should have a good idea whether Colorado deserves mention among the top teams in the conference, or whether this is a team that is still a year away from being taking seriously over the long haul.

In Tad Boyle’s first year as the head coach in Boulder, the Buffaloes opened Big 12 play with three straight wins, including an eye-opening road win at Kansas State, the Wildcats’ only home loss of the year. However, they then proceeded to lose their next four games, including three disappointing road losses against the dregs of the conference, going a long way towards sealing that team’s Selection Sunday fate and an NIT bid. Gone from that squad are the team’s four most prolific offensive players, including NBA lottery pick Alec Burks.

Tad Boyle, Colorado

Tad Boyle Has Colorado Out To A 3-0 Start In Conference Play For The Second Consecutive Year (photo credit: Getty Images)

But similar to last year, this vintage of the Buffaloes again has four players who are scoring in double figures (although none are approaching the 20 PPG Burks averaged last year) and five different players have led the team in scoring in at least one game. Last weekend it was senior wing Carlon Brown leading the way, averaging 23 points per game in a weekend sweep of the Washington schools, but freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie had been featured strongly, scoring in double figures in nine straight games before laying an egg against Washington State. Then there’s manchild Andre Roberson, a 6’7” sophomore forward who is arguably the most athletic player in the Pac-12 and certainly its best rebounder; he has already posted nine double-doubles on the season after posting five in his freshman season. Throw in steady senior forward Austin Dufault, who you can seemingly pencil in for ten points a night, and you’ve got a solid four-man core that has played well throughout the season. The other guard spot is a bit of a concern, as senior Nate Tomlinson, a 43.8% three-point shooter in his first three years in Boulder, is struggling with his shot this season, hitting just 32.7% from deep and having made just two of his last 14 out there. Freshman guard Askia Booker also earns plenty of playing time (he’s the only reserve getting more than 50% of CU’s minutes), and he’s an athletic ball of energy who can provide a scoring punch off the bench, but he needs to dial back his aggressiveness a bit until he cleans up his jumper and begins to take better care of the ball.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 1.10.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 10th, 2012

  1. Utah did something this weekend that they had given no indication they were capable of doing this year: not only did they win a game in conference play, they were extremely competitive in both of their games. The difference between the Ute team this past weekend and the team that lost by 31 to Cal State Fullerton (just to pick one lowlight from the non-conference schedule)? This Utah team has been playing their hearts out defensively. Give credit to head coach Larry Krystkowiak for keeping his team’s attention and give credit to the players for buying in.
  2. Utah’s new conference-designated rival, Colorado, is also experiencing good things in their first year in their new conference. The Buffaloes sit atop the Pac-12 standings with a 3-0 record and head coach Tad Boyle sees his team coming together as the season progresses. However, last year the Buffaloes started play in the Big 12 with a 3-0 record and then proceeded to lose four straight and six out of seven games on its way toward missing the NCAA Tournament. In other words, good work Buffs; now get back to work. Elsewhere in Boulder, CU had a little milestone Monday as Carlon Brown became the first Buffalo to win a Pac-12 Player of the Week award. His 23-point average and nine-of-15 shooting from deep made his selection more or less a no-brainer.
  3. Lorenzo Romar got a mid-season present yesterday when Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a tight end on the Washington football team, announced he would be playing basketball for the Huskies this season. Seferian-Jenkins is a 6’6” 258-pound physical specimen who averaged 19 points and eight rebounds per game as a senior in high school. Seferian-Jenkins began practice with the team yesterday, but there is no current timetable for when he will actually play for the Huskies, and his role on the team when he does get some minutes remains to be seen.
  4. UCLA got back to .500 in the conference this past weekend, in no small part due to the play of senior guard Lazeric Jones. Jones averaged 10.5 points, seven assists and four rebounds per game this weekend, and is the Bruins leading scorer and assist-man this year. Jones has always played the point in his basketball career, but in recent games has given up his primary ballhandling role in order to play on the wing and be more of a scorer for UCLA.
  5. Lastly, after stealing a win in Spokane to become the sole Pac-12 team to win on the road in the opening weekend of conference play, Oregon had its serve broken on Sunday night by California, falling back to .500. That makes successive weekends where the Ducks came out on Thursday night and played well, only to mail it in on the weekend and fall by double digits. Head coach Dana Altman knows that the Ducks will need to work on improving the consistency of the effort they put out.
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Pac-12 Honors: Week Nine

Posted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2012

Around the conference this week, it was by and large a week in which the teams who had spent the opening games of Pac-12 play in the friendly confines of home had to go out and try to make a living on the road. All, that is, except for one team – our team of the week – a team that has yet to taste the cold strong of a conference road trip this season.

Team of the Week

Colorado – The Buffaloes have played three Pac-12 games in their history, and all three have taken place at the Coors Event Center on their campus in Boulder. Given the difficulty of life on the road in conference play, it has been a nice present for a relatively unknown team. And, give credit to Tad Boyle and his team, they have taken advantage of the schedule-maker’s gift and run out to a 3-0 record in conference play. This week they hosted the Washington schools and took care of business in a big way, handing Washington its first conference loss of the season on Thursday night in an 18-point blowout, then following that up with an 11-point win over Washington State on Saturday in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score. The Buffs post a better than 56% eFG in both games and got help from all up and down their roster, with five players scoring in double figures at least once on the weekend. However, the fun stops here. Colorado hasn’t played a road game since November 30, and they haven’t actually played a true road game out of the state since last year. In order to really compete for a Pac-12 title, they’ll need to prove they can take their fun on the road and get a few wins, and there is no tougher place to start this season than with a trip to the Bay Area schools.

Carlon Brown, Colorado

Carlon Brown Helped Boost Colorado's Pac-12 Record To 3-0 With Nine Three-Pointers This Weekend (Ron Chenoy/US Presswire)

Player and Newcomer of the Week

Carlon Brown, Sr, Colorado – While guys like Andre Roberson (6.5 PPG/10 RPG in last two games), Austin Dufault (15 PPG/4 RPG), Spencer Dinwiddie (9 PPG/4 APG), Nate Tomlinson (11 PPG/APG) and Askia Booker (8.5 PPG/4 RPG/2 APG) all made significant contributions this weekend, it was the senior transfer from Utah who stole the show. Brown had his best game in black and gold on Saturday, going for 28 points, seven rebounds, a couple assists and a couple steals, but his contribution to the team goes way beyond mere numbers. Brown came to Boulder last year with the reputation as an athletic slasher who couldn’t shoot a lick, having shot just over 30% from three in his time in Utah. However, Brown spent last season dedicating himself to cleaning up his jumper and his efforts have clearly paid off. He’s shooting 41.5% from deep on the year, and this weekend hit nine of his 15 attempts from deep including a career-high six threes on Saturday. Brown’s hard work and confidence provide a good example for the talented underclassmen on this team and gives Boyle an extension of himself on the court.

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Checking In On… the Pac-12 Conference

Posted by AMurawa on January 5th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences. He is also a Pac-12 microsite staffer.

Reader’s Take

 

Top Storylines

  • The home teams dominated play this week, going 9-1 in the first weekend of conference play. Fans around the conference will gnash their teeth and overreact to the first two games and anoint teams like Washington, Stanford and California as the runaway favorites, but the fact remains that even in a down year in the Pac-12, the eventual winner of the regular season title will need to win their fair share of road games, while still defending their home court. So, it is good news for the Huskies, Cardinal and Golden Bears, but they’ve still got a lot to prove before distancing themselves from a team like Oregon State, who dropped its first two games of the year in disappointing fashion.
  • The one road team to score a win last weekend was Oregon, who played almost a perfect game in their opener against Washington State, scoring almost 1.8 points per possession in the first half, shooting a 78.6 eFG% and sweeping to a 17-point road win. They were brought back to earth a bit on Saturday, when a suddenly hot Washington team tore through them, but a 1-1 record for the Ducks is a significant accomplishment. If they can back that up by holding serve as the Bay Area schools come north this weekend, they’ll be in business.
Olu Ashaolu, Oregon

Olu Ashaolu's Double-Double Led The Ducks To The Lone Road Win In The Opening Week Of The Pac-12 (Young Kwak/AP)

What to Watch For

  • A week of conference play only tells half of the story. This week, for the most part, teams that benefited from opening week homestands have to head on the road, while last week’s road warriors get the comfort of some home-cooking. The biggest clashes of the week may come when the Oregon schools host the Bay Area schools. If either Stanford or California is able to somehow pull off a sweep, they have earned the early title of Pac-12 favorites. Meanwhile, Oregon State, considered by some (ahem), to be the conference favorite prior to last weekend has a lot to prove. The Beavers absolutely have to win both of their games this weekend at Gill Coliseum to still be considered a legitimate contender to the throne. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Reset As Conference Play Tips Off Tonight

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2011

Yesterday we looked back at non-conference play and picked out some of the highlights of the first couple months of the season. Today, as conference play gets ready to tip-off, we look forward to what we expect to happen from here until Selection Sunday. Prior to the start of the season, we took a guess at things like conference standings and All-Pac-12 teams based on limited information. Now, we’ve got twelve or thirteen games upon which to base our next set of guesses, but given the state of affairs in the conference so far, may be no closer to having a good idea what is going to happen from here on out than we were back in November. Nevertheless, here goes:

Projected Standings

  1. California 13-5 – While every team in the conference is flawed, the Golden Bears are slightly less flawed than the rest, provided Richard Solomon can return from his injury, Harper Kamp can remain relatively healthy and freshman David Kravish continues to improve. Their quartet of guards (Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith) is the best in the league and head coach Mike Montgomery has a way of squeezing every bit of production out of his players.

    Mike Montgomery, California

    With Mike Montgomery At The Helm And A Talented Backcourt, The Golden Bears Are The Slight Favorite In The Pac-12 (photo credit: Christine Cotter)

  2. Stanford 12-6Johnny Dawkins’ team will prove it is for real, but it may not have the experience or the single elite player capable of scoring with confidence in clutch situations to actually win the title. Chasson Randle or even Dwight Powell could grow into that type of player, but it may be a year or more away from happening. The Cardinal travel to Berkeley on the final day of the regular season in what could be a game rife with title implications.
  3. Arizona 12-6 – It seems like everybody is just waiting for Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson to turn it on, take over this team and turn the Wildcats into an explosive offensive force. They’re talented enough to make that happen, but 13 games into the season, it is looking like Solomon Hill, Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry are going to have to continue as the go-to guys for Sean Miller. And while those guys are nice players, they are all more suited to the role of contributors rather than stars, at least on teams who hope to win a conference title. However, the fact that the Wildcats only have to play Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon once each is definitely a bonus.
  4. Oregon State 11-7Craig Robinson’s has an exciting and young squad that may have only scratched the surface of its talent so far. However, given their history of losing games that they have no business losing, they’ve got to be in the same “prove-it” category that Stanford occupies. Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the quintet of Ahmad Starks, Jared Cunningham, Devon Collier, Joe Burton and Angus Brandt turns itself to be the most talented starting five in the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.28.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 28th, 2011

  1. Looking ahead to conference play, we’re getting picks from up and down the conference as to who is now the favorite in the Pac-12. Connor and I have our own ideas which we’ll share with you tomorrow, but for today, have a look at what Bud Withers of The Seattle Times and Bob Clark of The Register-Guard think. Both guys pick California as the favorite, and somewhat surprisingly, both guys pick UCLA to finish in the top half of the conference, with Clark being bold enough to pick them second. Also noteworthy is that both writers place Arizona, California, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and Washington in the top six in some order. Where it looked like we had a top tier of four teams (Arizona, Cal, UCLA and Washington) prior to the season, we now seem to have six teams in that top tier, with none of the lot looking like serious contenders to make a push in the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Colorado may be a lower division pick in both of the above projections, but they are something of a sleeper in the conference. With Andre Roberson, Carlon Brown and Spencer Dinwiddie at least in the discussion for all-conference performers, there is no lack of talent on this team, and with six players in their rotation either freshmen or sophomores, there is plenty of upside. And head coach Tad Boyle sees one obvious thing that the Buffaloes need to do in order to improve during conference season: play hard for 40 minutes. The young Buffs have been capable of putting together strong halves, but have yet to really put it all together for a full game.
  3. For UCLA to have any chance of competing for a Pac-12 title (and color me, for one, unconvinced that they can), they’ll need to have a full complement of players, especially in a shorthanded backcourt. The fact that both senior guard Lazeric Jones and freshman guard Norman Powell suffered sprained ankles on Monday is cause for serious concern. Both players are questionable for UCLA’s conference-opening visit to Stanford on Thursday night, and if both are somehow unable to go, the Bruins would have Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb and Kenny Jones (14 total minutes in four seasons in Westwood) as their only scholarship guards available.
  4. The UCLA game at Stanford will be a huge test for both teams, and it is our RTC Pac-12 Game of the Week, which we will preview in depth tomorrow. However, Oregon State’s visit to Washington on Thursday night may be equally important to figuring out this Pac-12 landscape. Oregon State has a 10-2 record, tied for best in the conference with the Cardinal, while Washington has limped to a 6-5 record minus any type of quality non-conference wins. And yet it is OSU that has the most to prove in this game, going on the road against arguably the most talented roster in the conference. However, head coach Craig Robinson sees his Beavers as a confident bunch, ready to take a figurative swing at anybody in the conference. It should be an exciting game between the two most up-tempo teams in the league, with each team averaging over 70 possessions per game.
  5. Lastly, Washington and head coach Lorenzo Romar have been very quiet on the recruiting front for the 2012 class with nobody signed for next year yet. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not active elsewhere, as they’ve already offered to at least three players in the 2014 class, with Justin Jackson, a possible top 10 recruit in his class, the latest to receive an offer from the Huskies. Jackson is a 6’6” wing from Houston who has earned interest from elite programs across the country, ranging from Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor in his home state, to Ohio State and now Washington, with other elite schools still in the mix. The other two players Romar has offered in 2014 are Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who has the interest of schools like UCLA, USC and Arizona State as well, and Josh Martin.
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